Favorites in Palo Alto
I too have enjoyed Cafe Borrone, Zibbibo, and Cafe Brioche. Also like University Cafe (University Avenue) for lunch; Palo Alto Sol (California Ave); Bistro Elan (although haven't been there for quiet awhile, also on California), and Le Poisson Japonais, which has been discussed a lot on this board.
While in law school at Stanford, I ate a whole lot of meals in Palo Alto - here are my favorites (keep in mind this list is 2 yrs old):
Peninsula Creamery - milkshakes, FFs, scrambles
Straits Cafe (has SF location) for Singaporean - get Roti Prada and poached chicken
Zibbibbo (great atmosphere & food - same owner as Lulu's, I believe)
Cafe Brioche and Joan's on Calif Ave for breakfast
Benbo's for Mediterranean
Cafe Borrone (technically in Menlo Park) for lattes, desserts - some sandwiches and all soups are delicious too.
We like Evvia's, upscale Greek food, for dinner. I especially like the Peninsula Creamery for lunch, but I eat breakfast food there because I'm a breakfast junkie, and I throw in their cornbread because that's my other big bad food habit. I noticed on their menu that they opened a branch in Stanford Shopping Center.
I've always liked Cafe Brioche on California St. Excellent chevre chaud (spinach salad, goat cheese, almonds), oyster sandwich, and save room for the tarte tatin. Open for both lunch and dinner.
Rangoon (on Ramona? off University) has wonderful inexpensive Burmese food for lunch (closes at 2) or dinner. Ask the staff to recommend Burmese dishes over the Chinese offerings.
Whole Foods deli makes great sandwiches.
re: Melanie Wong
I haven't tried their green tea salad (I love the one from Nan Yang). Now I'm wishing I'd been more recently so I could remember the menu better. Good excuse for a visit.
They have excellent soups (a coconut-based broth with rice noodles), a ginger salad with toasted fava (?) beans, very good sweet and sour (pork? chicken?), and crisp chicken salad. I wasn't impressed with the samosas.
If you haven't had Burmese food before, it draws on the neighboring cuisines, so a combination of Chinese, Indian, and Thai with several distinctive touches. Their default preparation is not spicy (Palo Alto diners), but ask them to recommend Burmese specialties and prepare them with appropriate chili. I've found the service to be very friendly, and lunch specials are a great bargain.
The address for Rangoon is 565 Bryant St, not Ramona as I wrote earlier.
If you want dessert after lunch, hop over to Ramona to Tea Tyme for tea and cookies.
Thanks for the details! I've been wanting to try Rangoon, and had asked about it in my post below for another Burmese restaurant on the peninsula.
I've also noticed a Burmese restaurant in south San Jose, but can't recall the name at the moment.
re: Melanie Wong
I'll be curious to see how Rangoon matches up to other Burmese places. Mostly it stood out in comparison to the filling but mediocre $10 spaghetti lunches I ate the rest of the time in downtown PA.
Also, as Thai food has become familiar and homogeneous, it's fun to have another related cuisine to explore.
Hope you've made it to Burma Super Star by now.
Sounds like we need a Chowhound visit to Burma Super Star. Haven't worked my way through the menu yet, I just liked the atmosphere, and of course the food.
It's at 309 Clement around 2nd St.
Here's what the Guardian recommended ordering in its recent Best of the Bay:
"...nothing beats the unbelievable food at Burma Super Star restaurant. A little bit Indian, a little bit Chinese, Burmese cuisine is full of savory curries, crispy breads, and mouthwatering honey glazes. And at Burma Super Star every dish is a blockbuster. Start with the flaky pastry-wrapped potato samusa (think samosa crossed with egg rolls, but better than both), move on to the poodi (potato stew with soft, tasty flat breads), then try the spicy shrimp curry or the honey chicken. The peppery Singapore rice stick noodles are also fabulous."
Windy, as the fates would have it, I needed to be in Palo Alto on Thursday. I roped my brother into joining me for dinner at Rangoon, as hed not tried it yet either.
The small interior was very pleasant, painted with pastel murals, and our server was friendly and eager to answer our many questions. He steered us away from some things that we were interested in, after hearing his more thorough descriptions. Balachang was described on the menu as chopped dried shrimp stewed with some other ingredients. When I asked how strong and smelly it was, the server smiled at my question and said it smells bad. OK, well skip that one. He also recommended the curry pork for its gravy over the drier style kima pork. We noticed that every other table in the place had a plate of potstickers (which looked like the thick and doughy standard issue), but we were only interested in the Burmese dishes.
The Fermented tea salad ($5.95) was a mild version, low on fishiness (mild fish sauce and not a trace of dried shrimp) and subtle in its spicing. There was more shredded raw cabbage, and less tea leaves, which made it less exotic in flavor too. The toasty elements were crackly crunchy, as they should be, and in the balance, this was a nice version. Burma House in SF still makes my favorite tea salad, mixed at the table, although I dont care for the other dishes there.
The Paratha ($3) had the smoky aromatics of cooked to order pan-fried dough and was cut into quarters. Some granulated sugar to sprinkle on top to taste was an accompaniment. While this had many layers, we thought it was too thick (nearly 3/4), leaving the inner layers pasty and underdone. I stripped those out and only ate the crisp, brown exterior.
The Chicken coconut noodle soup ($5.95) was a yellow, gravy-like, coconutty-fragrant creamy soup with chunks of succulent boneless dark meat chicken, sections of boiled onion, crunchy pieces of yellow pea cake, and fresh ramen-like egg noodles. Our server used the soup ladle to cut the noodles as he filled our bowls. Thick and filling, one order of this is a meal in itself. We thought it was improved by addition of a little bit of the dried chili flakes offered as a condiment. We forgot to try it with the fresh cilantro leaves and lemon wedges that were also provided, but I think this would have helped cut through some of the stultifying richness. The aroma of this dish was absolutely heady when it was brought to the table.
The Chin paung kyaw ($6.50) offered the most unique and foreign taste sensation. Our server had cautioned us that it was a sour Burmese vegetable very sour, he repeated several times. Even though my brother is especially sensitive to tart/acidic flavors, this warning intrigued us. It turned out to be our favorite dish. The sour veggie was mushy leaves, olive green in color, as if it were frozen or canned. The flavor was similar to sorrel with a bright acidic kick. Some whole leaves of sauteed fresh spinach were mixed in. The orangey sauce was chili-based and spicy warm, and a few slices of fresh jalapeño pepper were tossed in for good measure building another layer and flavor of hotness. The prawns were juicy and succulent with a barely cooked glassy texture. The combination of flavors and tart-spicy symmetry made this a stand-out.
We had ordered the Burmese curry pork ($7.25) extra spicy, but oddly, it packed less heat than the sour vegetable dish. The chunks of leanish but still tender pork reminded my brother of the texture of the meat in a good version of chile verde. He pointed out that it was lean, yet not dried out. The red curry gravy was complex but not assertive I think Im getting a handle on the Burmese touch. The pieces of green mango pickle added tart accents in the richness.
We accompanied both these dishes with Coconut rice ($1.25 per person). The rice was quite soft with broken grains, which I considered a negative. But my brother felt that the soft and almost sticky texture melded better with the sauces, and that the noticeable sweetness rounded out the spicy dishes.
We had enough left-over to feed a third person, as portion size on the entrees is on the large size. We were too full for dessert.
Comparing Rangoon to the nearby Yamin Win in Los Altos, the cooking seems to be comparable and priced just a bit lower. The room is more attractive at Rangoon, and the service more accessible. Yamin Win, though, has a more extensive selection of Burmese dishes, especially vegetarian items. We liked them about equally well.
Burmese & Chinese Cuisine
565 Bryant St.
Mon-Sat, 11:30am to 2pm
Mon-Thu, 5pm to 9:30pm
Fri-Sat, 5pm to 10pm